Should we abstain from Certain Things at Lent?

One of my children once came home from school with a pamphlet containing a list of ‘recommended things to do, in our observance of Lent.’ “Is it good to give up things for Lent Mum?” she asked. It was a good idea, I explained to her, to eat healthily, at any time of the year, and this may entail giving up or reducing our intake of sweets, for example. However, the Lord has never laid down any ‘hard and fast’ rules about eating things differently at certain times and seasons of the year. In 1Cor. 10v31 we are exhorted to “do all to the glory of God,” which includes eating and drinking, but the word ‘Lent’ is nowhere to be found in the Bible. 

Indeed, the whole idea that we can improve our spiritual standing before God by self denial of one sort or another, is totally contrary to God’s Word, for we read in Titus 3v5-7:  “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Also, in 1Tim. 4v4 we read: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” It is interesting to note that thanksgiving is mentioned twice in this portion of scripture (1Tim. 4v1-5). How good (and essential) it is to give thanks for the food before us. This can be a challenge when one is dining in public – but we should never be ashamed to bow our heads and give thanks to the Lord for His provisions to us. This action in itself is a witness and testimony to those around us!

Many denominations now observe Lent as a ‘holy time of preparation,’ in the forty days prior to Easter. Preparation for what, I wonder, for surely the Great Ransom has been paid?  (Hebrews 10v10). No ordinance of man, or fasting, self-punishment or denial of certain foods and luxuries can take away the sin which separates us from God and from eternal life in His kingdom – but the blood of Jesus can! This Jesus “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7v27&28).

Sadly many priests today, like the priests of old, find themselves subject to ordinances and laws which can never take away sin. Christians too, are warned…  “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” (Gal. 4v8-11). 

Like the Pharisees of Bible days, many people these days live a seemingly ‘holy’ life, attending their place of worship regularly and adhering to directives from their hierarchy. Unlike the Christians of Berea, mentioned in Acts 17v10-13, they do not “search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so…” (Verse11). Surely we can only put our trust in “such an high priest… who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” (Heb. 7v26). Finally, only Jesus can forgive us, cleanse us, and make us free from the indwelling sin, which every soul has been born with!

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